UTAH OUTLIERS REGULAR SEASON RECAP
The Utah Outliers 2017-18 regular season has come to an end. The second year of the Outliers franchise saw a rise in the standings, improved performance and a first-place finish in the Mountain Division. The organization is now preparing itself for a very deep playoff run. We are going to take a look back on the WSHL regular season and showcase the reasons why the Outliers experienced as much success on the ice as they did.
The Utah Outliers spent a majority of the regular season as one of the top defensive teams in the entire league. With solid goaltending, shut-down defensemen, and forwards willing to play a 200-foot game, the Outliers were very hard to score on. Throughout the year, Utah was consistently ranked in the top 5 for goals against. At no point during the season were the boys giving up more than an average of 2 goals against. After all 51 games on the schedule, Utah has allowed a total of 100 goals, good for the number two spot behind only the El Paso Rhinos. Goaltender Dawson Rodin has been a ‘wall’ for a good portion of the season, boasting 22 wins and 8 shutouts. His 93 save percentage was tops in the league for all goalies playing more than 14 games, and third overall for all goaltenders. Newly acquired Cedric Lesieur also earned a 2-0 record since joining the Outliers, and young local netminder Trenton Wendt also went undefeated in four games.
On the back end, the core defensive group proved their worth with all eight-defenseman seeing significant time throughout the season. The Outliers allowed only 100 goals, and while the ability to keep the puck out of the net was at the forefront of the defenders minds, the club also had some solid offensive contribution from the blue line. Zack Hoffman led all defenseman with 48 games and 68 points (2nd in defensive scoring in the WSHL). Christian Bundschuh and Viktor Burman both had 22 points, Vladislav Buyanov earned 21, and Zack Evans collected 18 and was second in goals by defensemen with 4. Two 2000 birth year players Spencer Langille-Crowe and Brad McCloskey also combined to score 22 points, while newest addition William Wikner recorded 7 assists in just 13 games played. Having eight solid D-men who can help keep pucks out of the net while also contributing offensively was a big key to the Outliers success.
Only four other teams (El Paso Rhinos, Oklahoma City Blazers, Idaho IceCats, Ogden Mustangs) put more pucks into the back of the net than the Utah Outliers. In 51 games, Utah was able to find the twine 290 times, good for an average of 5.68 goals per game. The goals scored throughout the season were also very evenly distributed as numerous players had multiple goals. Ten players had more than 10 goals, six had more than 20 goals, and two players hit the 30-goal plateau. Kane Toriumi scored 32 to lead the way, followed by Dylan Massie with 30. Brandon Krumpschmid, Jacob Wanstrom, Roman Svik, and Oscars Ancitis all lit up the score sheet for more than 20 goals apiece. A few late arrivals also made their presence felt as Jan Pixa (12gp 7g 7a), Alex Crilley (13gp 4g 7a), Erik Safstrom (8gp 5g 5a), and Mattias Wikstrom (9gp 3g 2a) joined the Outliers late but contributed heavily in the offense.
The depth of the team extends beyond the previously mentioned goal scorers as returner Zach Dornseifer earned 45 points in 37 games upon returning the team later into the season. Top penalty killers and two of the top defensive forwards on the Outliers, Kaeden Meuer and Benji Mickel also showcased some offense with Meuer earning 15 goals to go with 23 assists, while Mickel has been on a tear lately and holds an 11 goal and 15 assist stat line. Another two-way forward Alex McCloskey has seen a strong improvement in production from last season to this season, and has earned 6 goals and 7 assists, including two highlight reel slap shot goals. Another 2000 with huge potential is Philip Rodhe-Magni. The 6’2” Swede has 3 points in sixteen games and has the potential to grow into a top end forward.
The Utah Outliers have beaten teams in a number of different ways, but a few things that have helped has been home ice and special teams. This season, the Outliers have protected home ice very well, losing only 3 games out of 25 at the Acord Ice Center in West Valley. This is a trait that should be very beneficial for the Outliers, as they will have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Special teams play a huge role in all levels of hockey, and fortunately for Utah, both the powerplay and penalty kill has been among the league leaders all season.
With Utah holding an edge in most statistical situations, the Outliers are primed for numerous situations that will arise throughout the post season. Having two weeks to prepare for the second round of playoffs will also give the boys more time to shore up any final details in their game.
The WSHL post season starts this weekend (Mar 16-18) and will continue throughout the month as each of the 24 teams compete to make it to the final six. The four teams that win their respective divisions along with two wildcard teams will earn their tickets to El Paso, Texas on April 10, where they will duke it out to be crowned WSHL Champions.
The Outliers will begin their first home playoff series March 23, 24 and if necessary the 25th. The team will play a best of three series against the winner of the Casper Coyotes and Superior Roughriders. Stay tuned for more playoff details coming soon!